View down Christmas Valley into the Tahoe Basin from the edge of the burnt area. Note Echo Summit on left distant flank.
Current Weather Conditions
Great Granite Features below the burnt flat
Misty Mountains Rise out of the Dense Forests
Christmas Valley Mists
Snow route to Big Meadow from South Upper Truckee.
Approaching the Burned Flat we can see the ridge to the East offering a way East over to Big Meadow.
Yup, Big Meadow is up there.
Big Meadow is on the other side of that ridgeline. We will continue up to the Burnt Flat, South, to our Right from the perspective of the image above, where we can get much more direct access to that flank up to Big Meadow.
We won't have to drop down into the little gully full of trees before climbing the ridge to Big Meadow. A few more feet hiking South will put us above the top of that little gully.
We have the option of hiking up to Big Meadow to check it out, then we can veer South along the now snow-covered route of the trail from Big Meadow to Round Lake.
Well, we can during Winter and when Snow conditions have covered the grueling forest floor litter and brush obstacles. This is not a viable shortcut during Summer.
Or we can continue as planned Southbound up this tributary (to our Right) of the South Upper Truckee through the Burnt Flat on our way up to Round Lake.
Big Meadow and Scotts Lake to Hope Valley
As I mentioned, we have the Winter option to hike East up to and across Big Meadow. This could be part of a backpacking trip on our way over a gap in the Waterhouse Massif to Scotts Lake.
It was a nifty Winter exploration. I just decided to go explore new terrain over there, and did.
This 30 minute map lays out the terrain from Big Meadow to Scotts Lake and Hope Valley.
View North down the Valley
Our tracks coming up the valley, animal tracks off to the Right.
The cold darkness under the forest is growing as the sunlight diminishes with sunset's approach.
|The burnt area running up to a flat spot where we can turn around and get our first uninpeded view of the Tahoe Basin. The fire must have been 8 or 9 years ago. (2002 or 2003?)|
Looking North across the Burnt Area.
The fire burned hot in here.
Summer View North down Christmas Valley from the North edge of the Burnt Area. This position is about 1.13 miles South of the trailhead.
The Carson Range is visible in the far distance rising above the unseen East shore of Lake Tahoe.
Note the scorched trees in the foreground. This marks the Northern edge of the Burnt Area. This view is looking North from the North end of the Burnt Flat.
In Winter I generally camp near here on the way in, and the way out. Drifting snow forms some nice flats suitable for camping.
Note the FAINT cutaway on the descending ridge on far-distant left side of image. That is where Highway 50 cuts through the Tahoe Rim at Echo Summit. The Echo Summit trailhead is less than a half-mile West of there. See the image below for a close-up of Highway 50 coming through Echo Summit into the Lake Tahoe Basin.
Christmas Valley and Lake Tahoe beyond from the North edge of the Burnt Flat in Meiss Country.
Note the exact same three trees in the center of the image above and the second image above.
I am in almost exactly the same place in different seasons of different years.
Looking South across the Burnt Flat
|Looking South across the Burnt Flat from its North edge.|
Snack Break, Burnt Area. Note my snack sack on the rock above my pack.
I always hang a sack with the day's food and snacks within easy reach.
It goes like this: Pack off, food and water instantly in hand.
Winter, hiking up through Christmas Valley to Round Top Lake, near Carson Pass.
Just throw down the pack and crash out
|Waking up to a frosted pack, burnt area.|
Frosty Pack in the Morning.
Snow sticks wedged in snow over pack to secure pack during evening.
I camped on the burnt flat the night before exiting out the South Upper Truckee to end a Winter trip.
Since there were no storms I merely stamped out a nice flat while wearing my snowshoes and full pack for good snow-compression, rolled out the insulation/sleeping pad, and enjoyed the clarity of cold Winter skies during the long Winter night.
Another Burned Flat Camp
Solar heating had cleared this rock of enough snow to provide a great seat and seatback. I just had to stamp out a nice compressed flat for sleeping and camp activity.
This place is a good target for the first day's hike in, as it is not too far from the trailhead. It is a good place for the last night of a trip for the same reason. Below I've stamped out the trail to the toilet and tree I'll hang the food from.
Since I use my thumb and public transportation on the way in and out of trailheads I've got to stage up my beginnings and ends of trips to accommodate the extra transportation time.
I don't know how long it will take to get to the trailhead, so the first day's trail miles are dependent on transportation time.
The same applies to the way out, especially during Winter. It may take a couple of hours to walk out of the trailhead to Highway 89 and down to 50, so staging up here for an early morning return to civilization on the way out seems to me as good a plan as staying here on the first night in after an extended trip to the trailhead.
We need to have plans for the easiest transition onto and off of the trail as possible.
Transitions are important.
|Setting up the Winter to Spring trip first Campsite on the Burnt Flat.|
Morning at the Burnt Flat, proceeding up to Round Lake along our tributary. Video of Winter terrain.
See the full list of Videos from this
|Sunset from the North side of the Burnt Area.|
|Winter Sunset over Lake Tahoe Basin from from the sleeping bag in the Burn Area.|
Highway 50 entering the Tahoe Basin.
That's the cutaway we've been looking at on the side of the distant wall of the Tahoe Rim.
Looking Northwest from Christmas Valley at Highway 50 coming onto the East flank of the Tahoe Rim via Echo Summit into the Lake Tahoe Basin.
The Tahoe Rim
To our Southbound Right (West) the edge of the Tahoe Rim parallels our route hiking South up the canyon.
I use this gap in the Tahoe Rim as a Winter Landmark.
Looking West up at the gap in the Tahoe Rim from our position on the burnt Flat in Christmas Valley.
This is the gap in the terrain 2.15 miles South from Echo Summit Trailhead along the Pacific Crest and Tahoe to Yosemite Trails that makes a great overlook into Christmas Valley and our position here on the Burnt Flat.
This gap is also an excellent landmark for a long as we can see it. Soon the close-in nature of the terrain we are following up to Round Lake will obscure long views.
|Most of the forest floor litter was burned away, and virtually all the trees killed.|
The View North passing South through the Burnt Area.
We're just about to descend off the South end of the Burnt Flat.
Turning our back on this great view we again turn upstream and hike to the end and off the Southwest side of the burnt flat.
On the Southwest end of the burned flat we find the trail bends to the Southwest off the backside of the Burned Flat through a short switchback, back down to the tributairy we've more or less followed up to this point.
From here we are going to get up on the steep side of the mountain below the West side of Big Meadow to where the trail begins traversing a narrow passage following above the countours of the creek all the way up to the Dardanelles Lake trail junction.
The Tributary on the Southwest Side of the Burnt Flat
We are hiking up along the Eastern tributary of the South Upper Truckee. We do not ford it.
Dropping Southbound over to the South side of the burnt area flat brings us back down to this creek.
We are now past the Southern limit of The Burned Area.
South of the burnt area we will again be encased in deep forest within this steep narrow valley along the tributary, until things open up a bit past the Dardanelles Lake trail junction.
We'll continue traversing the mountain flank Southbound as the creek drops down deeper into its ravine off to our Right side.
We'll mostly stay in this closed-in terrain above the creek up to where the trail cuts in from Dardanelles Lake from the West, our Southboud Right.
There are two all-season locations where we can access the creek between the Burned Flat and the Dardanelles Lake trail junction. The first is pictured above, where we rejoin the creek on the South side of the Burned Flat. This is where we get water for Burnt Flat Summer campsites. The second place to get water is where the trail makes a sharp bend Left near the creek about a half-mile to the North of the Dardanelles trail junction.
Typically we'll see a couple of flat spots sufficient for emergency campsites as we hike past this mid-way watering point.
As the total distance between the South Upper Truckee Trailhead and Round Lake is four miles, I really don't see any water issues on this part of the trail.
Likewise for the short distance from Round Lake to our Southbound exit from the Tahoe Basin through the Carson Gap. Plenty of water here in the Meiss Country Roadless Area.
But we've got to consider water for the next section of the trail South when we exit the Lake Tahoe Basin, especially if we are hiking South on the Pacific Crest Trail. The PCT may have some water issues during dry years. We'll consider these issues as we get ready to hike out of the Tahoe Basin from Meiss Meadow tomorrow.
The Tahoe to Yosemite Trail South of the Tahoe Basin has plenty of water sources.
Where to Camp
The Hiking Plan
Our 1st day's backpacking plan must consider the situation created by the time we arrive at the trailhead, combined with the load that elevation, pack weight, and the stiff climb right out of the trailhead are going to put on the body.
The video on this page considers these issues for Winter travel.
I generally plan to spend the first night of Summer backpacking trips out of the South Upper Truckee trailhead at Round Lake. Round Lake is about four miles and 1560 of vertical elevation up Christmas Valley. Round Lake sits at 8032 feet of elevation.
I say "about" four miles because the route has been significantly altered by recent trail reroutings. The map does not reflect the current route between the trailhead and the Dardanelles trail junction accurately, and subsequently the distance between the trailhead and Round Lake.
I did place the lower part of the new trail from the new traihead in the correct location on the USGS map. The new trail route is located higher up on the mountain to the East than the old trailhead and trail indicated on the map.
There are also a couple of switchbacks that have been added to the trail between the trailhead and the Burnt Area that are not depicted correctly on the USGS maps, or on my modified maps, yet.
Though Round Lake is only four miles up the trail, I generally camp there my first night out. This is because my arrival time at the trailhead is very rarely earlier than 3 pm, and that's if everything goes right, on my way to the trailhead from Berkeley.
During Summer the sun sets as late as 8:30, giving us plenty of time to hike to Round Lake for our first night on the trail. There are good reasons to camp at Round Lake.
First, Round Lake is beautiful, and has many nice campsites overlooking the lake. It's the nicest place to camp from the South Upper Truckee trailhead to Round Top Lake. Second, it sits at 8080 feet, and a night here helps us adjust to altitude. And finally, an easy first day at altitude and under load is the proper way to warm up without provoking blisters, exhaustion, injury, or altitude adjustment problems.
Depending on my state of fitness going into the High Sierras, I generally do 5 to 7 miles on the first day, 10 to 12 on the second, then hold 15 mile days as long as required, and more miles per day as necessary.
Round Top Lake
Round Top Lake is our second campsite out of the South Upper Truckee because I prefer the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route over the Pacific Crest Trail Route between Carson Pass and Ebbetts Pass.
Round Top Lake is on the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail route pointing Southwest after the Pacific Crest Trail route has broken off to the Southeast.
Round Top Lake is not a long distance away from Round Lake, about 7 miles, but it is such a pretty Lake, and the views spanning the Northern horizon from West to East are so profound, that I will sacrifice a few miles on the trail to enjoy the view and spectacular sunset at one of Round Lake's fine campsites.
That's why we are here...
For more on permitting requirements at Round Top Lake for local and long distance backpacking, see the Carson Pass Management Area information.
Down the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail
Our next two camping options hiking the Tahoe to Yosemite Trail South are at Fourth of July Lake at 9.3 miles South of Round Lake, and the wrecked camp I call "The Boyscout Camp," (pretty much wiped out by fallen snags ((2013))which sits approximately 11.5 miles South of Round Lake.
Pacific Crest Trail
If I am heading South on the Pacific Crest Trail my destination will be one of the lakes in the chain of lakes located South of the paved Blue Lakes Road.
Of course I can do more or less miles, as required by the situation and determined by analysis of food, miles, social and esthetic issues, and physical conditions.
My priority list is clear: I do what I want to first, followed by what I need to do second, and ultimately devolve to doing what I have to.
The key is to be clear on how these priorites are flexibly interconnected, about how following each priority induces changes in the others.
In other words, how you walk today determines how you will walk tomorrow.
For more on the daily calculation.
7.5 Hiking Topo Map
30 min Hiking Topo Map
Next page South
Backpacking Trail Guide
Backpacking Trail Guide
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